Mumbai, 01 Jun 2018 10:29 IST
Vikramaditya Motwane's film has a sweeping cinematic style and a relatable story, but is pulled down by a riddled plot and a very mellow Harshvardhan Kapoor as the eponymous vigilante.
After having traced the increasing levels of angst in Udaan (2010), Lootera (2013) and Trapped (2016), Vikramaditya Motwane has decided to walk the route of fiction. Bhavesh Joshi Superhero is a sweeping cinematic tribute to the world of superheroes — particularly Batman — where an ordinary idealistic young man decides to change the corrupt world he lives in.
A great idea on paper, except over the 155-minute runtime, it lacks conviction about its lost cause. The problem is not the length of the film. It is the fact that the film 'feels' lengthy.
The story begins with Rajat (Ashish Verma), Bhavesh Joshi (Priyanshu Paiyuli) and Sikandar Khanna (Harshvardhan Kapoor), young 20-somethings living in Mumbai, in the middle of the Anna Hazare Lokpal movement. Inspired, naive and idealistic, they decide to become crusaders themselves for fun. While Bhavesh takes on the character of Insaaf man (based on Rajat's unreleased graphic novel) and tackles local issues, Sikandar handles the tech side. Except, even when the world moves on, 5 years later, Bhavesh Joshi refuses to surrender. Sikandar has become the more practical software engineer planning to move to Atlanta, even as Bhavesh sets out to battle a corrupt coterie of politicians stealing water from the city's pipelines.
Things go wrong, and Bhavesh ends up dead. This is the moment that spurs Sikandar into action as he decides to take on the mantle and turn into the vigilante the film promises.
Motwane's film is built on a good story, but surprisingly lacks the sharpness of his previous works. Where it could have used the tension and anger à la Udaan, it meanders. The idea of one man seeking to rise out of the apathy is inspiring, but the film required a more effective second half.
The script was reportedly finished in 2010, and has since been added to. It comes across onscreen, and is disjointed at times. The touches of political movements (Lokpal, Anna Hazare), and their failure, the rise of the water mafia, and corruption are interesting touches. There are also several portions of the film which feel like a take off on Christopher Nolan's Batman series, however, they lack the same edge. In fact, there is a post-credit scene (à la Marvel) which is an impressive touch, and also the warning of a possible sequel.
There are several moments of understated conversational humour which are bright spots, but they are few and far in between.
But the plot has some unironed kinks. Considering the nature of the criminal enterprise, one would assume the villains had a little more than ordinary intelligence. Their failure to track and torture the hero's immediate friends after the first attack seems a bit lazy. They also have the habit of not bringing a gun to a fistfight.
Another key plot hole is our hero's income. This is often sorted out by a simple addendum. Batman is a billionaire, Daredevil is a bloody good lawyer, etc. When Harshvardhan Kapoor takes on the mantle of Bhavesh Joshi, he is unemployed and AWOL from his workplace. How did his office never file a complaint when he did not turn up in Atlanta?
The climax, when it arrives, also seems a little rushed. There is the feeling of a rushed finish that dilutes the impact completely.
The key to a superhero or vigilante film lies in its characters. That is where Bhavesh Joshi Superhero fails most miserably.
Harshvardhan Kapoor's hero does not convince us of his reasoning, other than the death of his best friend. It does not help that the actor fails to deliver with conviction in the most intense sequences. While he is sincere in his performance and has the idealist marked down to a T, his vigilante lacks menace.
The contrast is provided by Priyanshu Paiyuli's original Bhavesh Joshi. Funny, naive, but driven by a cause he believes in, the character comes across as more rounded and relatable. This makes his eventual death feel rather impactful. Paiyuli delivers with a first-rate performance.
Ashish Verma, as the conscientous friend keeping Sikandar in check, is also good. Shreiyah Sabharwal has little to do as our vigilante's girlfriend, and only feeble connection to love.
Motwane's film has evil men in multiples, but they never cross from being corrupt into truly evil. Nishikant Kamat tries his best to play the wolfish politician but comes across as all talk. The more threatening is corporator Patil, played by Pratap Phad. His stare and minimalist dialogue add a memorable touch to his character.
The cinematography is impressive, particularly when tracking our hero across the city's landscape. The action sequences are real, and gritty. However, the training montage, often a key element of these movies, fails to impress. The shaky camerawork, an attempt to replicate The Amazing Spiderman (2012) comes across as amateur. The highlight remains an impressive bike chase across the city in the night shot by Stephen Seveu.
A word for the brilliant background score by Amit Trivedi. The composer delivers a soundtrack and score that reverberates long after you leave the theatre. One of the high points of the film.
In all, Motwane's film is let down by a weak plot, and ineffective acting soldered together with the treatment of cinematography, music, and action. But without the necessary content, it simply feels superficial.
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